Breaking even on Founders Card in one week

We’ve written a bit here on rsts11travel about FoundersCard, a membership program for entrepreneurs and small/medium business operators that provides lots of travel, business, and lifestyle benefits for an annual fee of $295-595 (usually $395). We’ve also answered questions on various travel forums about it. But we haven’t really given a detailed review.

The short summary I’d give would be that, if you run a business or work for a small business where you manage your own travel, or if you find yourself in Las Vegas or Lake Tahoe or Atlantic City more than once a year, it’s pretty easy to make up the value of the membership fee without too much effort. If you travel more, use business and lifestyle services (more on that shortly), or buy technology for your business, it truly becomes a no-brainer. If you are limited to corporate travel or no travel and don’t use business services, it’s probably not for you.

We’ve been members for about three years now, with Robert (the site owner) having the annual membership and his partner having the spouse membership (which is a one-time fee for life). The first year we saw about $1,000 in value, and the second year at least half that (which exceeded the total cost of membership). The third year was looking a bit light due to less travel, but in one week in Las Vegas we recouped this year’s cost and then some.

A caveat for anyone considering membership: If you are choosing to apply because of one benefit, keep in mind that there’s no guarantee that any particular benefit will be renewed from year to year, or will remain the same from year to year. Think about a range of benefits that may be of use to you before putting the money down, to minimize the disappointment if your one sacred benefit goes away in a few months or a year.

The Roman Emperor In The Room

Many FoundersCard fans consider the Caesars Entertainment benefit, Total Rewards Diamond status, to be worth the price of membership on its own.

The Diamond tier, normally earned at 15,000 tier credits from Caesars spend including gambling and other on-property expenses, gives you exclusive discounts on Caesars hotel stays, waived resort fees, guaranteed room with 72 hours notice and upgrades when available at check-in, a 20% discount on purchases at gift shops, priority check-in at hotels and even restaurants (and express lanes at some Starbucks locations), and a $100 celebration dinner certificate each year (usable at almost any restaurant at a Caesars property). You also get two free tickets to one of a list of shows and attractions at Caesars properties in Vegas each month (subject to availability) and a Caribbean vacation.

Also available is a status match to Wyndham Resorts loyalty program, which can be great if you use any of the Wyndham chains but not enough to earn their status organically.

If you have a spouse membership, your spouse or significant other can get the same status, which means you get two $100 certificates a year and four free tickets a month. Each of you must be present to redeem the benefit, so if you travel alone, think about bringing your partner with you.

Alas, you no longer get unlimited free access to the Diamond Lounges, unless you have earned 25,000 tier credits in the past year. You can enter for $10 worth of reward credits per person, per visit, if space is available. This can be worth it, but it’s not the amazing value it used to be.

Also, you are less likely (read: not likely) to get comps from Caesars with the FoundersCard status offer; those seem to be for tier members who earn through gambling and possibly through hospitality spend. You will be eligible for discounts, and if you gamble or spend a lot on property, you may find comps or a host available.

Nonetheless, this benefit alone can be worth several hundred dollars to an individual or couple visiting Las Vegas.

A sample visit

Here’s an entirely practical Las Vegas visit that you could experience (with the disclaimer that the Masters of Illusion show is closing soon, so hurry!). How practical? We did it two weeks ago. You do need to apply for the Caesars benefit on the FoundersCard site and wait for it to be active before you can do this.

You and your partner get to Las Vegas and go to a Total Rewards desk to collect your celebration certificates. This would be $100 each, or $200 total, which can be used at almost any Caesars restaurant. If you can cover the full cost of your meal with the certificates and possibly reward credits, you won’t pay tax, and you can tip in cash (this should be obvious, but definitely tip based on what you would’ve paid, not what you actually pay out of pocket). For example, the tasting menu at Gordon Ramsay Hell’s Kitchen outside Caesars Palace, with modest cocktails or wine, can easily come in under $200 for two. Same goes for the Sterling Brunch Buffet inside BLT Steak at Ballys, which we also love.

While you’re at the desk, you get your vouchers for two shows each. You’re in a magical mood, so you choose Masters of Illusion at Bally’s (value of $85.21 each) and Penn & Teller at the Rio ($84.30 each). Other shoes are available including Wayne Newton, Anthony Cools, Murray the Magician, and more. But with the two shows mentioned, you’re looking at $339.02 worth of tickets.

With two shows and one dinner, you’re at $539.02 in benefits for two days, compared to the annual FoundersCard fee of $395. To be fair, the spouse membership over two years would bring you to $592.50 per year, but over three years it averages to $526.67.

So one weekend in Vegas each year makes up the cost, even if you don’t stay at a Caesars property or use any of the other benefits. A second weekend in Vegas would mean another two shows, and if you stay at a Caesars hotel, you’ll get even more value.

You may love the other benefits though. And they don’t require going to Las Vegas. They may not even require leaving your office.

Non-Vegas highlights

There are four categories of benefits with FoundersCard, not including their networking events which can be useful and fun as well: Hotels, Travel, Business, and Lifestyle.

For hotels, a number of Mandarin Oriental, Marriott, and Omni properties have special offers for FC members, and they currently offer a Marriott status challenge for Gold Elite. A number of individual hotels in various cities around the world (including New York, Chicago, Dubai, DC, San Diego, and more) have special rates, discounts, amenities, and so forth.

Travel benefits include Hilton Honors Gold status, car rental services, airline promotions and periodic American Airlines status challenges, 6 months free plus a discount on CLEAR (but the Delta offer is much better over time), and a free year of TripIt Pro (and discounted rate after the free year).

Business benefits include shipping services, computer hardware/software/service offerings, shared office rentals, domain services through Namecheap, Office Depot business offerings and discounts, and more.

The lifestyle offerings include discounts on premium clothing brands, health and fitness services, furniture, magazines, electronics, Spafinder cards, beverage subscriptions, and ShopRunner membership (if you don’t already have it from American Express or another card).

As noted above, these benefits do vary from time to time, and FC is always adding new offers. It’s interesting to note that many of the founders of the companies offering these benefits are also FoundersCard members, and you’ll see these notes on the listings for applicable offers.

In the past year or so I’ve taken advantage of the Soma water filter offer, FIJI water delivery, Namecheap domain renewal discount, and Hilton Honors status, as well as an American Airlines platinum status challenge that made a busy travel year much more comfortable.

How do I join?

We do have a referral link for FoundersCard. Using it, if approved, you will receive the current promotional rate ($395 a year as of this writing), and we will receive a referral bonus that can be applied toward gift cards or even renewal of our own membership.

Note that status-related benefits are not instant or automatic; you have to register for them, and you will want to allow up to several weeks for them to make their way through the partner system, although often they take effect sooner. Discounts including travel and business/lifestyle services are usually through a special link or a code available from the FoundersCard website, and will be available upon approval.

So wrap up the story for us

FoundersCard isn’t for everyone. It is focused on founders and entrepreneurs, so if you’re not the sort to do business logistics for yourself, or if you don’t travel much, it may not be worth the expense.

It’s also not a credit card, so it won’t replace your American Express Platinum or Chase Sapphire Reserve, but it can easily supplement those. And [we are not tax attorneys or lawyers, but] it may be a tax-deductible business expense.

Even if it is worth it now, as your business needs and the FC offers change, it may be less beneficial to you. For example, if you ignore our admonition and join just for Caesars benefits, and those go away, you’ll be disappointed, but we can say we told you so.

On the other hand, if you’re buying new computers for your business, procuring services, or traveling within your own control (whether for business on a hard-earned vacation), you can easily make it worthwhile with just one or two benefits. Many of the benefits can be used over and over, so they keep giving you value.

If you think you could come up with enough value to join for a year, apply through our link (and we thank you for that), and let us know what made the decision for you. If you’re interested in more about what FoundersCard has done in the past, they do have a blog, but it doesn’t see a lot of activity. They email periodically, when new benefits are available, and their member service is very responsive and helpful.

For those of you with FoundersCard, what benefits do you get the most use out of?

 

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